Lift rod too high and you're in for cracking time

By Geoff Thomas

This is what happens when you lift the rod too high on a powerful fish. Picture / Goff Thomas
This is what happens when you lift the rod too high on a powerful fish. Picture / Goff Thomas

It was a strong fish and the calls varied from "It's a big snapper!" to "stingray".

Maybe it was a big trevally, or a shark - although a shark's teeth would have cut the trace.

But the rod was working overtime while the angler heaved. It was at the bottom end of Waiheke Island, and the fish had taken a cut bait dropped for snapper. The angler was struggling and the slender, carbon-fibre rod bent dangerously. Then suddenly there was a loud crack and the top third of the rod flopped over and hung down the line.

Jon Gibson kept pulling, but with limited leverage it was tough work. Finally, 10 minutes later, came a flash of silver and green and the call went up: "Kingfish!" And it was a nice one, about 1m. The gaff went in and the back-pats went on. He had done well with a broken rod. It is not easy coping with a strong fish like a king on relatively light snapper tackle, particularly when the rod is shortened.

Gibson was working so hard on the rod he lifted it too high, and when a powerful fish is pulling on the other end the rod snaps. It is called high-sticking, and happens often, particularly with carbon fibre rods. The answer is to not lift the rod beyond 45 degrees, and work it quickly in what are called short strokes. With short, fast strokes while taking only a couple of winds on the reel each time, a large fish can be brought under control.

The trip was a great boys' day out and was one of the auction prizes at a charity dinner to raise funds for youngsters' sailing programmes through the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Gibson and his mates, Steve Haddock and Shane Laker, enjoyed catching snapper in the Sargent's Channel, between Crusoe Rock and Waiheke Island's Park Pt. There are plenty of snapper running through the channels on the tide, and the best fishing was in the last hour going out, as is often the case.

With reasonably large tides this weekend and the bite time close to low tide this afternoon, there should be some good fishing.

Game fishing has been running hot all around the coast, and with the NZ game fishing nationals on this week there will be teams out from sport fishing clubs from North Cape to Dunedin.

There have been some impressive reports of marlin tagged at the Three Kings fishing grounds north of North Cape, with one boat reporting 35 marlin tagged in two days and another boat tagging 40 in two days recently. And about 50 short-billed spearfish have been recorded out of Whitianga, indicating warm water, reported up to 26C.

Fine weather during the week helps small boats going wide for game fish, but Tuesday's full moon means it will be interesting to see what fishing was like. The full moon phase usually brings settled weather - which was the case this week - but it is also known as a bad time to be fishing. Whether fish are less active because of the bright moonlight and they are in more danger from predators, or they stop feeding, or they feed at night; or maybe the bite time is shorter; nobody knows.

But a successful commercial fishermen did opine once that the best moon phase for fishing is the two days before the new moon - not the day of the new moon - and the four days right after.

Another common theory is that fishing is always much better when the moon is visible in the sky, whatever the phase.

That is what makes it so interesting. All the different theories. If we caught fish every time we went out the challenge would disappear. And for every red-letter day there will always be a slow day. It is called "paying your dues".

Freshwater

Rivers are low and clear and cicadas are still prevalent, but they will start to disappear as weather cools. When the clumsy insects fall into the water the trout are waiting and it can lead to some exciting fly fishing, casting a large dry fly which imitates a cicada struggling on the surface. The noisy insects spend up to 17 years underground where they feed by sucking juices from plant roots, before burrowing to the surface and climbing up a tree trunk or post to hatch in the sun and take wing as an adult. Their purpose then is to find a mate and breed, and the strident buzzing sound so common in the bush is the males trying to attract a female.

- NZ Herald

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